9 Nov 2017: A celebration of trees

Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking. — Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel laureate

World Town Planning Day, or World Urbanism Day, is celebrated in more than 30 countries on four continents every November 8. Wikipedia describes it as a day to recognise and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities and to draw attention to the environmental impact resulting from the development of cities and territories. To mark the occasion, some cities in Malaysia – Putrajaya, Kuala Terengganu, Nilai, Kulai and Penang – are organising tree planting campaigns.

It’s pretty safe to say that many of us, whether we are city dwellers or rural folk, cannot imagine a city or landscape without trees. Despite the important role they play environmentally, aesthetically and even historically, most trees are, sadly, taken for granted and relegated to the background as we look past them to other, more ‘interesting’ things. Ask yourself: when was the last time you stopped to seriously think about the trees already living within our backyards, city avenues and public spaces, and how they can be maintained and multiplied?

Areca Books is doing its bit to commemorate World Town Planning Day by re-introducing a perennially popular and very apt title, The Heritage Trees of Penang. Since its launch in 2011, the book has been regarded as a definitive guide to some of Penang’s most remarkable trees, and a timely reminder that trees are not only part of our landscape, but also a vital component of our cultural, historical and natural heritage, as well as an integral part of our daily lives. Richly illustrated with 72 original watercolours and over 1,200 photographs, The Heritage Trees of Penang was born out of a passion for trees in all their shapes and sizes, eccentricities, irregularities and hidden surprises — from the majestic ones found in temples to those growing out of deserted buildings and often worshipped with makeshift shrines, as well as the magnificent avenues of angsana and rain trees in George Town and those growing in the kampungs of the west coast.

Tree-loving readers will also be pleased to know that the Penang State Government is bringing together the private sector, institutions, organisations and the community on Saturday, November 11 to plant as many trees as possible within Penang state over 24 hours — a total of 10,000 trees are targeted. Hopefully, this initiative will realise the creation of a ‘Cleaner, Greener, Safer & Healthier Penang’, and educate the public on the importance of tree planting in order to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change. Click here for more info on this event.

Imagine if trees gave off Wi-Fi signals. We would be planting so many trees and we’d probably save the planet too. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe.